Did you know? Under U.S. law it can be illegal to provide humanitarian aid and help demobilize armed fighters when it requires contact with terrorist organizations?

A Serious Problem
Delivering humanitarian aid to civilian populations often requires contact with local authorities in the form of payment of fees, taxes, permits, as well as logistical coordination. When the local authority is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, U.S. law treats this minimal contact or involuntary leakage of aid in the same manner as deliberate “material support” to terrorism. These prohibitions were one of the reasons emergency aid did not reach some populations in critical need during the tragic famine in Somalia between 2010-2012. The United Nations has reported that some 260,000 Somalis died during this period from famine-related causes.

Similarly, peacebuilding programs designed to reduce extremism and armed conflict are also considered illegal if they involve contact or coordination with designated terrorist organizations.

These laws exist to ensure groups that might intend to harm the United States do not receive resources that can help further their aims. While this rationale remains valid, these measures are not achieving their intended result; the amount of resources prevented from reaching terrorist organizations is small in comparison to the enormous humanitarian toll and the lost opportunities to address the grievances that lead people to extremism in the first place.

Legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to correct this problem. The 2013 Humanitarian Assistance Facilitation Act (HAFA) (HR 3526) will streamline the process for allowing legitimate humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable populations in areas controlled by designated terrorist organizations. It will also remove some of the barriers to programs designed to “reduce or eliminate the frequency and severity of violent conflict and its impact on the civilian population.” Critically, HAFA includes safeguards to ensure that only legitimate charities acting in good faith can benefit from its protection.

Please learn more about this issue and show your support for this important step forward!

Here’s everything you need:

  • Overview, background, and explanations of the bill and its effects, provided by the Charity and Security Network (CSN)
  • A complete advocacy toolkit compiled by CSN that explains what you can do and how to do it. Some of the ways you can show support for this legislation include:
    • Endorse HAFA. Join the dozens of organizations that are signing on to this statement by InterAction. Simply send your organization’s URL and a contact person’s info to Nathaniel Turner at [email protected]
    • Support HAFA on social media. Use the above advocacy toolkit to learn how to support HAFA on Facebook and Twitter.
    • Contact your member of Congress. The Charity and Security Network has created an easy way for you to send a message to your Representative in less than 5 minutes.

Thank you for your interest and support for this effort to ensure U.S. laws intended to reduce terrorism do not also block critical humanitarian programs. Relief, development, and peacebuilding efforts around the world save lives, help vulnerable communities stay safe, and greatly reduce factors that lead to terrorism. Please support this step to make sure these vital efforts are preserved to help ensure safety and wellbeing both at home and aborad.

For more information, please contact Nathaniel Turner at the Charity and Security Network:
[email protected] | 202.481.6026.